Restless Soul Review: Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts
I love a good genre mashup, but the key to pulling one off is nailing each of the different genres you choose to combine. Restless Soul borrows from a variety of places. Some light puzzle elements from Zelda, overworld design that would feel right at home in the early Pokémon games, and shoot ‘em up elements that would feel right at home in a lot of twin-stick shooters, even if the developer’s choice to describe them as bullet hell feels a tad misleading. They’re interesting elements to bring together, especially when you throw in so much fourth wall breaking that it makes Deadpool feel reserved in comparison.
The problem is that these elements never really come together. While the puzzle elements are here, they’re so basic that even young children will likely find them bland. The overworld isn’t poorly designed, but nothing about it has any real personality. The shoot ‘em up elements are perhaps the biggest issue, never quite nailing the visceral thrill that the genre is capable of creating.
A Certain Style
Whether players will find Restless Soul to be an enjoyable if slight diversion or a game to stay far away from really depends on if they enjoy its humor. While the world itself doesn’t have much personality, borrowing a lot of style but none of the substance or creativity from Undertale, it does have jokes. You play a person who has died, but from the time they arrive in the next world, they’re determined to go back to life. The grim reaper takes one look at your file and gets worried, determined to do something about your quest before it even gets started. A talking dog is there to help you along the way, though he’s hesitant to offer any real assistance for fear of getting on the bad side of Dr. Krull, an overlord who is forcing the dead to join his army or chill out in an afterlife prison.
Restless Soul never stops making jokes. Every line of dialogue, every encounter, every anything is intended to get the player laughing. In the early going, it actually succeeded quite regularly for me. No, the humor here isn’t deep or profound. There’s a lot of breaking the fourth wall and commenting on the game itself or its mechanics. A lot of characters grousing about their lot in death. Tons of references to other properties. Physical comedy is used a lot. Some people will be turned off by this instantly, but I enjoyed it, for the most part. Even for me though the repetition got old eventually and it would have been nice to see Restless Soul know when to dial it back just a bit to let these characters be characters instead of just acting as joke delivery systems. Characters players can care about actually have the potential to be funnier, but there’s never a moment where we get an idea of anyone’s motivations or personality in any depth because they’re too busy cracking jokes.
Shoot It Out
Dr. Krull has a portal that can return someone to life, but it’s under lock and key. Ten keys, to be particular, the gathering of which is your main goal throughout Restless Soul. You’ll go from area to area, entering dungeons where a variety of puzzles and enemies come at you. You can shoot them twin-stick style with the right thumbstick, and you have a dodge, though the biggest twist dungeons can usually think of is throwing rooms where you suddenly can’t dash at you. These mostly just end up as annoying, rather than offering the variety this game needs.
The actual shooting mechanics are incredibly basic, and while things do get harder over time, they rarely even approach the bullet hell Restless Soul likes to advertise itself with. If anything, most of the encounters feel too slow, and most of the challenge comes from the perspective the game is played in. I really like the sort of 2D in 3D style the developers went with, it looks great and really pops off the screen. It often makes it hard to see where bullets are coming from, though, and I frequently took damage not because my reflexes weren’t fast enough but because I misjudged where attacks were going to hit. I like the style, but it makes the actual substance of the combat a lot less enjoyable.
Restless Soul looks great and can be genuinely funny, at least in small doses. Its various parts aren’t badly designed, they just don’t fit together well, and its insistence on never letting up on the humor prevents any chance of it connecting with players on anything but a surface level. If this style of humor is up your alley, you could have a fun, if forgettable, weekend with it, but everyone else should stay away.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Switch; Publisher: Graffiti Games; Developer: Fuz Games; Players: 1; Released: September 1st, 2022; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Restless Soul provided by the publisher.